World & Nation

In Oklahoma tornado’s aftermath, an outpouring of generosity

Josephine Owings
Josephine Owings, 62, who survived a direct hit by a tornado on her rented home in Moore, Okla., Monday afternoon, gets help recovering belongings Tuesday. Owings returned to salvage items from her home-based seamstress business.
(David Zucchino/Los Angeles Times)

MOORE, Okla. — The FM radio airwaves in Moore and adjoining Oklahoma City were clogged Tuesday with pastors, church members and ordinary citizens phoning in to offer food and shelter to neighbors left homeless by a powerful tornado that killed at least 24 people here Monday afternoon.

Bottled water. Ice. Baby wipes. Boots. Cereal. Toothpaste. All of it was offered by callers to stations that abandoned normal programming to focus on the aftermath of the storm on a blustery day of pounding rain and scattered hail storms.

At some point, it got to be too much.

Several announcers begged people to stop and think about what they were offering — and to limit their donations to the most useful items. Used clothing and sugary snacks were not among them. But toiletries and bottled water were in demand, and soon appeals would go out for shovels, gloves and trash bags as clean-up begins in earnest.


PHOTOS: Powerful tornado slams Oklahoma

The outpouring of generosity, if somewhat unfocused, washed up at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, a few miles north of the Moore neighborhoods devastated by the twister. The church and the Red Cross partnered to set up a shelter that quickly became a drop-off point for donations for those who had lost homes to the tornado.

It was one of several shelters that sprang up late Monday and all day Tuesday. Most, like St. Andrew’s, are several miles from the center of storm destruction, where roads are cut by police barricades and traffic backs ups for blocks in the absence of working traffic lights.

“People are just driving up and dropping off all kinds of things,” said Robyn Mellow, 23, a Red Cross volunteer staffing a table in the church entryway. “They’re being very generous.”


Volunteers sorted through donated items, mostly food, water, ice and clothing. The church and Red Cross had already provided cots, blankets, showers and toilets. On top of that, several local restaurants had sent over hot lunches and dinners. And U-Haul offered free storage space, Mellow said.

About 50 to 60 storm survivors dropped by to pick up supplies by mid-day Tuesday, Mellow said, but then returned to their damaged or destroyed homes. Fewer than 10 people actually spent the night Monday night

“They’re afraid to leave their houses because they’re afraid of looters,” she said. “That’s just wrong — people who’ve lost just about everything shouldn’t have to worry about somebody stealing what’s left.’’


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